2013 FedEx Cup Playoffs: Are the Venues Too Easy?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2013

NORTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 01:  Sergio Garcia of Spain holds up his ball after putting for birdie on the 15th green during the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on September 1, 2013 in Norton, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Golf fans and analysts could spend days debating about how to improve the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoff system.

Still, there are enough “good ideas” to go around, and it seems as if every fan and analyst on the planet has their own “brilliant” solution for making the FedEx Cup more exciting.

The fact of the matter is that the current FedEx Cup playoff format is a heck of a lot better than what we previously had—which was nothing.

Prior to the start of the FedEx Cup in 2007, most of the world’s top golfers would essentially put their clubs away for the winter immediately following the PGA Championship in early August.

It was a constant battle for the PGA Tour to even get these guys to attend the Tour Championship prior to 2007. Most of the world’s top golfers would have probably chosen a root canal over showing up for the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup in September and October (occasionally even in November for Presidents Cup matches).

Of course, the Tour had to throw $67 million at these guys, including $35 million in bonus prize money, to get them running to events in September with bells and whistles on, but that is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that most of the top golfers on the planet are battling it out in Boston this week whereas just eight years ago they would have all been sitting at home watching college football in their theater rooms.

So, this should all be taken into account prior to hurling criticism towards the PGA Tour each and every September as if it were the fashionable thing to do in the world of sports writing.

Having said that, there is one area where the PGA Tour could drastically improve the FedEx Cup playoffs without a whole lot of effort, and that is by either making the current venues play considerably more difficult or by moving to completely new venues in the future.

Plain and simple, the courses that the Tour currently visits during the playoffs are just too easy for the top golfers in the world, especially when considering that there is $67 million in prize money at stake.

In 2012, the combined winning scores of the four FedEx Cup playoff events was 60-under par.

The winning scores at two of the four playoff events—the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship—were 20-under par last year.

A winning score of 20-under par is extremely low at any PGA Tour event let alone at an event that is meant to make up one of the four prestigious “playoff” events on the PGA Tour.

Heck, the winning score at the Travelers Championship, which is typically known as a four-day shootout, has been 20-under par or lower just twice in the past decade.

In fact, during the entire 2012 PGA Tour regular season the winning score was 20-under par or lower at just four events (the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, The Humana Challenge, The Puerto Rico Open and the John Deere Classic). One of those events—the Puerto Rico Open­—is what is known as an opposite field event as it takes place during the same week as the WGC-Cadillac Championship and is attended by players not ranked high enough in the World Golf Rankings to receive an invitation to Doral.

Sergio Garcia is currently leading this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship at 19-under par. So it is very likely that the winning score at TPC Boston will once again be 20-under par or lower. This would be the fourth time in the past six years that the winning score at TPC Boston was 20-under par or lower, making it statistically one of the easiest courses on tour.

Granted, the PGA Tour cannot control Mother Nature, and TPC Boston has often been the victim of precipitation combined with high levels of humidity which essentially turns the greens into dart boards for touring pros. On Saturday afternoon, the Tour was also playing lift, clean and place rules (which typically produces lower scores) due to some wet weather earlier in the day.

But even so, the average score Saturday was 68, which is three-under par. So, to make up any ground at all on the field, players literally had to shoot 67 or better.

During the first three rounds of the Deutsche Bank Championship, there have been 22 rounds of 65 or better.

This type of scoring would be considered low at events such as the Humana Challenge or the John Deere Classic, but at the second leg of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs?

This has to be some kind of a joke.

The PGA Tour and its sponsors are throwing $67 million at these guys for a four tournament series, so why not make them work a bit for this incredibly lucrative prize?

Why not bring a major championship feel to each of the four playoff events where par is a good score and every aspect of a player’s game is challenged at each and every stop throughout the playoffs.

Sure, golf fans (or at least casual golf fans) often enjoy a good old fashioned shootout, but if the Tour truly has any aspirations of turning the FedEx Cup playoffs into a prestigious series of events that will last beyond 2017—let alone hold any kind of historical significance 20 or 30 years down the line—it must make the road to the FedEx Cup title a lot more challenging in terms of the venues it chooses.

Winning scores that add up to 60-under par through four events and players dropping 63s as if it were child’s play is not going to bring a lot of prestige to these so-called playoff events.

If the Tour were to challenge these players for four consecutive weeks on major championship-esque venues, then, it may actually be on to something.

That would mean that a player needs to perform well all season and then also has to perform well for four consecutive weeks on extremely difficult golf courses in order to capture the FedEx Cup title.

Heck, if you’re going to throw $67 million at these guys…at least challenge them a bit.


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